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2021 Leadership: Start Strong, and Finish Well!

First, I want to give some background behind the quote, "Start strong and finish well". A few summers ago, my family was out in the yard working out. After a series of burpees, pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, and anything else to assist in burning a few extra calories, my seven-year-old son and I started out on a 1-mile run to finish out the workout. At about the .75 mile mark, we started up a small hill leading back to the house. I slowed my pace a bit to let him catch up when all of a sudden, he blows past me and shouts out, "C'mon Dad!! Start strong and finish well!". I immediately stopped in my tracks and started laughing hysterically. Did that remarkable, and grammatically exquisite, phrase really just come out of my little boys mouth?! It did, and it became the ever-repeating phrase in my head whenever I faced any form of adversity.

As we move into 2021 (Pfew) we have an opportunity to start again. Leadership conversations focusing on progress and success in the new year will be taking place in board rooms, Zoom rooms, and Microsoft Teams rooms across the globe. Organizations are going to discuss how to effectively keep up with fast paced tech advancements, how to actively lead their people from a distance, and how to not only embrace, but to thrive in a changing Presidential era. A lot of things will change... Some things won't... Regardless of the scale, change can create fear, anxiety, anger, and extreme feelings of uncertainty. Many are expecting that on January 1st, a switch will be flipped and everything will be back to normal. Many others are expecting things to get worse and are paralyzed with anger and fear. So... How do we, as leaders, motivate our people through what could be a dramatic season of change?

Dr. Brené Brown, in my opinion a pioneer in leadership research, states that "Leadership is not about titles or the corner office. It’s about the willingness to step up, put yourself out there, and lean into courage." As we move into the new year, leaders are going to have to be comfortable in the uncomfortable. We will have to motivate our people to move forward more than we have before. In order to motivate your people, you have to understand what motivates them; and in order to understand what motivates them, you have to get to know them. This takes courage, and vulnerability on your part but will pay dividends, literally and figuratively, for your organization.

As we move into the unknown, take the time to re-assess what makes your organization tick. Is the culture conducive to growth and transformation? Do your people still buy into your mission and vision? This doesn't mean that you need to change anything. It's just a great opportunity to talk to your people about the health of your organization, and to hear their ideas. This will innately create, or re-establish, a trusting relationship, and will let them know that what they think matters. Have the courage to listen to criticism with an open mind. The beginning of the year is a great opportunity to step out of your office and figure out how to move your people and your organization into a new era of success.

This year will be FULL of change. Your people will react to this change differently. Some will be ecstatic. Some will be devastated. Some will be somewhere in the middle. As a leader it is our responsibility to lead our people toward measurable progress by motivating them to do so. So... As my seven-year-old said... "Start strong and finish well". Start 2021 with a renewed vision, a renewed mission, a renewed workforce, and motivation that spills into your organization.

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